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Banning Books in Libraries:

A warning to us all:

A step towards further Isolation and Intolerance

By Wendy Rapee
Chair, The Children’s Book Council of Australia

The recent decision by Cumberland City Council to ban books on same-sex parenting from its library service is a warning bell about the future of free access to information and stories that reflect a community’s diversity. This move, which followed constituent complaints about a book in a series Same-Sex Parents by Holly Duhig, is not just about restricting access to one book; it represents a broader threat to our collective commitment to inclusion, empathy, and open conversation.

The book in question was written for children and banning books from publicly funded libraries runs entirely counter to the idea of building an enriching reading culture that has massive social benefits. We know stories, in all their forms (fiction and non-fiction), carry a society’s values changing values and we also know young people today are feeling entirely disconnected from these values and each other. In a 2022 a widely reported survey THE MAPPING SOCIAL COHESION SURVEY 2022 undertaken by the Scanlon Foundation Research Institute stated “Young adults reported less national pride, lower levels of national pride and belonging, material and emotional wellbeing, social inclusion, and participation.” Banning books runs entirely counter to young people acquiring a life-long window into the experiences of others and feeling connected to a community. Reducing access to a plethora of ideas stops meaningful conversations.

A library is more than a collection of books. Libraries, and the stories they contain, are spaces for exploration, learning, and connection. When we read, we don't passively consume information—we engage with ideas, confront different perspectives, and grow our ability to think critically and creatively. We walk in the shoes of others. They provide the opportunity to start conversations among peers and within families. Banning books, especially those that reflect the diverse experiences of people within our society, reduces the opportunity for our young people to develop empathy and understanding.


The book at the centre of this controversy, Same-Sex Parents, provides a window into a form of family structure that is increasingly common in Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of same-sex couples living together has risen by over 67% in the five years leading up to the 2021 Census.


This book and others, many appearing on numerous Australian awards for quality literature, including Premier and Prime Minister awards, offer young readers a chance to understand and appreciate the varied ways families can look and function. They also acknowledge a young person’s place in these family units. Over time these collections of awarded books and others written for this audience are important artefacts of our culture’s changing values. Stories for our young are created by our writers and illustrators who aspire to reflect young peoples’ lived experiences. Banning books, like the one in question from public libraries signals to young people that certain family structures are less valid, less worthy of acknowledgment, and less deserving of their respect.


The banning of books, of censorship by a few, raises further questions; like who gets to decide which stories are freely available? Librarians are trained professionals who curate collections to reflect the diverse needs of their communities. They are equipped to select books that encourage reading, learning, and foster an inclusive outlook. By circumventing their expertise and bowing to a vocal minority, Cumberland City Council undermines the very foundation of what libraries stand for: free and open access to information and disrespect their professional employees.


The council's actions are part of a broader trend of book banning that has been gaining momentum worldwide. These actions increase division, create barriers, and reinforce the message that intolerance is acceptable. If we follow this trend, we risk creating a society where young people are denied the chance to understand and appreciate the diversity that surrounds them. Today in the midst of circling reports of violence, domestic violence and challenging mental health issues it's imperative to share stories with each other. Stories have the power to shape our values and beliefs.


We must resist the urge to ban books and, instead, embrace a culture of open dialogue and respect for all family structures. Libraries should be a place where everyone feels welcome, where young people can find stories that resonate with their experiences, and where diversity is celebrated.


It's time for Cumberland City Council to reconsider its decision and for all of us to reaffirm our commitment to free access to information and stories and to growing tolerance. Banning books may seem like a quick solution and focus on a few loud voices, but it comes at the cost of our communities' long-term health and cohesion. Now, more than ever, we need stories that open minds, not close them.

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